Meditative Acts — Research #2: Candles

Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for a while now.  In particular, though not necessarily relevant to his conversation, we have some interesting ideas regarding Imbolc and Valentine’s Day and recycling candles to light new fires for the coming year.  So, when I started thinking about devotional meditations, in part inspired by folk saint rituals, it wasn’t much of a leap to DIYing the candles.

Candle making, at its basic, is simple.  You need wax, wicks, and a couple vessels.  A weight for the bottom of the wick is handy.  So’s a clip to hold the wick still while you pour the wax.  You need one vessel to melt the wax in, and another to pour the wax into.  You can add dies, scents, glitter, and a variety of other things to make end result prettier, the process more involved.  And I may do that as I get down the “don’t make a mess” part.

The wax and wicks arrived a couple weeks ago.  In my first test pour I discovered that while the vessels I have to pour the wax into – reused novena candle containers – work just fine, the vessel I have to melt the wax in and pour the wax from – a Pyrex measuring cup – is not quite as large as I need.  The larger wax melting vessel should arrive in the mail today, along with some wick clips just to make life a little easier.

When the wax has cooled, I’ll stick each candle with an image of the divinity to whom it’s being dedicated.  It should surprise y’all none that between my own art and what I’ve found on the internet, I have a lot of devotional to bring to the occasion.

I’m still trying to decide, from a ritual standpoint, whether it’s better to make the candles in advance and come into each week prepared, or to make making the candles the core of the ritual for the first night of each week.  From a logistics standpoint, obviously, it’s easier to make them in advance.  And the candle making doesn’t fit really well into the “meditative acts” frame of this months’ challenge.  I suddenly remember, though, that 4 weeks =/= 30 days.  There’s room for a prologue and an epilogue.  That day at the beginning gives me time to make a lot of candles and keep to framework I’ve already established.

Meditative Acts – Research #1: Contemplation

I have known since September that I wanted to participate in the December Do Magick Challenge.  I know that meditation is one of my greatest weaknesses.  When the full details of the challenge were dropped at the beginning of November, it did not take long for me to settle on the nature of the meditation that I wanted to do.

As I discussed in my previous post, I don’t have much in the way of personal history with prayer.  So it took me a while to figure out what that aspect of it might look like.  In discussing the matter with Aradia, she pointed out that I had been doing weekly-plus offering rituals to the land spirits at the Sunrise Temple and, “What do you think that was?”

Oh.  Yeah.  Duh.

Over the  course of November I also had the opportunity to listen to a couple people talk about their rituals involving folk saints — inevitably, Santa Muerte in particular.  Those rituals tend to revolve around seven day / novena candles.  Now, I’ve spent some time looking for prayer candles with images of my gods.  They’re available, but … wow$er.  I can do that shit myself.  As an added bonus, doing it myself adds significance to the candle.  Plus Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for quite some time, anyway.

So, yeah.  That.

Inevitably, given two of the gods I have chosen – Dionysos, Rhea – there will be some pouring of wine.  I can’t decide if Lucifer or Baphomet would prefer coffee … or whiskey.  Whichever way that lands, there will be libations across the board.

Between these three points — Jason Miller’s Rite of General Offering; hand-made novena candles; libations — I think I have the basis of a solid ritual.  I just need to work out the details.

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts – Declaration of Intent

Sitting still is a challenge.  I’m a pacer, a fidgeter.  I tap.  I draw.  I stim.  Stillness makes my skin itch.  My mind whirls in spirals of rage and anxiety.  When I sit down to write, I have to have music or movies going in the background to occupy my monkey brain.  For September’s challenge, I set myself to meditating 30 minutes a day by the end … I didn’t make it.  I capped out at 15, though my previous practice had made it as high as 20.

Prayer is alien.  I was raised with a television sort of Christianity, where prayer was like a desperate bargain, or the sort of thing that puts the “psycho” in psychodrama.  It was an identity marker with no action – as a child, no one I knew personally went to church; as I grew older, the churchgoers I met did not obey they teachings.  My pursuit of magic began in rebellion against that vision of Christianity, of any conception of god or gods which was compatible with such hypocrisy and inaction.  When I eventually began to hear the call of the gods, I had no framework from which to begin that exploration, no context with which to process the experiences I had in seeking them.

For the December challenge, I will be confronting those issues together.  I will be spending the 30 minutes of daily meditation in devotional prayer. I will light a candle, burn incense, pour libations, and say a prayer (or three).  Then I will sit quietly and listen.

As I approach December, I am going back to the Classical Studies section of my research library.  I am beginning by re-reading Dionysos at Large, by Marcel Detienne and Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter F Otto.  (Note that both these books have translators.  What is it the Anglophone world has against good Dionysiac research?)  Burkert’s Greek Religion will also feature prominently.  I will post some results from that research in the coming days.

Week 1 – Dionysos, Bakchos, Zagreus, Iachos, Eleutherion

My first love among gods, I literally wrote my undergraduate thesis on Dionysos.  He was there for me at my initiation, and has blessed my drinking and my brewing in abundance.  I have found solace in him when madness took me, his presence grounding me when I was adrift.

And yet, for all that, I have too often felt that he was … aloof from me.  I have never felt the ecstasy that so many feel in his worship.  And this saddens me.  So I will begin my month of devotional meditation with the god who convinced me that gods were cool.  I will devote the week to Dionysos.

I will read ancient hymns.  I will read modern hymns.  I will drink wine.  I will breathe frankincense and myrrh.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.

Week 2 – Baphomet Thanateros

I have been drawn to the image of Baphomet since very early in my magical practice.  The first magical book I ever bought was Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, with his iconic image of Baphomet on the cover and frontspiece.  I found him in occult-themed art on the internet, was drawn to the implicit bisexuality of his hermaphroditism.  I met him again, more formally, when I began studying Chaos Magick and performed the Rite of Chaos B.  He calls to me.  Sometimes I know how to answer.

It’s worth noting that I say “he” as a matter of grammatical convenience.  I see myself in Baphomet: a combination of genders and a rejection of them.  He.  She.  Xie.  All of the above and none of the above.

As far as research for this section goes, I don’t know what there is to be done in that direction, really.  Baphomet is … sort of a new god.  Half-formed.  Or perhaps re-emerging with a new face and name.  I will be digging up modern prayers to him, of course, including my own.  And art.

I will begin my devotions by returning to the Mass of Chaos B, re-dedicating the mask that has served as his idol on my alter, and awakening the statue I have just purchased.  Then I will continue with devotional candles and libations and fumigations.  And listening.  So much listening.

Week 3 – Whoever is calling me from that Luciferian current

Like most of us who got our start in eclectic Wicca, I swallowed a double dose of respectability politics and was always leery of anything that smacked of Satanism.  And yet … sometimes I hear that call.  One year, while I was away at college and keeping the Sunrise Temple, I got a song stuck in my head.  That doesn’t happen to me.  Except there it was, for a fucking month.

The day I acknowledged that it was Someone calling to me, the song went away.

The call began again when I returned to Kansas City.  In particular, it returned when I heard Peter Grey speak of Lucifer Princeps on the Rune Soup podcast.  It was slow building, at first, but peaked in July.  I’ve wanted to answer the call, I’ve promised myself and the world that I would … but I haven’t really known how.

In all honesty, I don’t know who, exactly, it is that’s calling me.  I’m hoping that if I sit still and listen, they’ll let me know.  Is it that Lucifer, arch nemesis of That One God?  Is it Malek Taus, as suggested by a particular divination earlier this year?  Is it some underlying emanation of the Promethean current that runs between them?  Some other figure I cannot even name?

This section will be the hardest to research.  How do you even start?  I will be acquiring Lucifer Princeps.  A friend has offered me her copy of Evolutionary Witchcraft, though we have not managed to connect since then.

Week 4 – She Below

The first deity I made contact with was not one I went looking for.  That encounter, and those that have followed, have haunted me at times.  Rhea, along with Dionysus, made her presence known at my initiation.  I have kept her on my altar for years, I have attempted to recruit for her.  But I have never … followed through the way I should have.

Above and beyond the simple need to continue the work, there is also the lingering damage done to me by the ceremonial experiment.  My Gnostic experiments are fruitful, and valuable, but they remain tied to the same reified astrotheology that burned me out.  I can’t just live in my head and in the Void.

Witchcraft is on the earth, of the earth, and below the earth.  I need the earth.  I need to stay grounded, and visceral, and alive.  I need that first goddess who reached out to me from Below.

The research for this oddly both among the most and least difficult.  Little is known about her cult, save for the incarnation favored by the Roman Imperial elite.  Much of what is known is contaminated by 19th century archaeology.  At the same time, though, there are through lines between the cult practices of the Theoi, and Dionysus is her initiate … I cannot imagine that she will refuse the rites he accepts.

I will light candles.  I will pour libations.  I will burn offerings.  I will read hymns both ancient and modern.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.